God, I love this song. There’s a calling in the distance that pulls you in from the beginning. Brandon Flowers’s vocals are what really got me, though. They’re soft and settle into describing the song’s subject before scaling to the top: “Doesn’t like birthdays, they remind her of why/She can go straight from zero to the Fourth of July.”
The main reason why I love this song, however, is because of its subject matter and how…familiar Flowers sounded. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until I gave The Replacements a re-listen. So that’s what I was hearing. Compare “Achin’ to Be” with the Killers’ “Caution” and you have the same soft description of an empty, whispy soul of a woman who’s longing for more. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. It’s just kind of sad but also quite beautiful.
For example, in “Caution” our subject is a girl who lives out in the desert and only knows that dancing is a way to make money and feel beautiful. In “Achin’ to Be”, our subject is a girl who’s an artist and “Never finishes, she abandons/Never shows a soul”. Interestingly enough, like in “Caution”, that girl also dances at nightclubs.
Both songs have a muted guitar that makes the lyrics take center stage. That’s something else I appreciated. In many songs by men that describe women, the woman is something to be pitied yet fetishized – the sad skinny girl I’ve written about before. Yet in both “Caution” and “Achin’ to Be”, the girl is our focus and the done isn’t judgemental.
Take a listen to “Achin’ to Be” below and compare for yourself: